Understanding how genomes, phenomes, environments, and development interact to build the vertebrate body
Uncovering the genetic basis of plasticity in African cichlid fish
How can complex morphological structures like the vertebrate face sense and respond to information from the environment? Phenotypic plasticity allows organisms to respond to their environment without waiting around for evolutionary processes; however, it can also contribute to evolution by shaping the trajectory of morphological change. My research utilizes a combination of cutting-edge genomics and functional assays to determine the molecular basis of this critical ability.
Photo description: Confocal microscopy in teleosts like African cichlids and zebrafish reveals the genetic and tissue-level mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity. Taken from Navon et al, 2020 PNAS.
Pinpointing the molecular changes which lead to subtle shifts in fin shape variation
Fins are extremely important to fish; they are one of the main ways these animals can move through their environment. They have extremely important functions in feeding; as such, fish fins exhibit a stunning array of diversity. How does feeding behavior influence subtle shifts in fin shape? What are the molecules involved in this process? This project combined quantitative genetics, population genomics, and small-molecule pathway manipulation to functionally characterize the candidate genes involved in this process.
Photo description: Whole-mount in situ hybridization revealed the genes expressed during fin development in three species of African cichlid. Taken from Navon et al, 2016 Mol Ecol.